Global coronavirus death toll exceeds 300,000: Live updates

More than 4.4 million coronavirus cases confirmed worldwide, at least 301,000 deaths and nearly 1.6 million recoveries.

An employee wearing a protective mask and gloves hands out takeout orders to customers outside a Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in the Brooklyn Borough of New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Ne
An employee wearing a protective mask and gloves hands out takeout orders to customers outside a Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in the Brooklyn Borough of New York, U.S., on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. New York City may lose a half-million jobs and run about $10 billion short on tax revenue through mid-2021 because of the coronavirus outbreak, the city''s Independent Budget Office estimated. Photographer: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg-
  • To date, more than 4.4 million people have been infected, and over 301,000 have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 1.6 million people have recovered.
  • Nearly three million laid-off workers in the US have applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total since coronavirus shutdowns began two months ago to over 36 million. 
  • Officials have confirmed the first coronavirus infection of a Rohingya refugee in the sprawling camps in southern Bangladesh, where over 1 million members of the persecuted Muslim ethnic group live. 
  • The number of coronavirus cases in Russia has surpassed 250,000, but daily new infections fell below 10,000 for the first time in nearly two weeks.
  • US authorities have accused China-linked hackers of breaking into organisations in the US researching the coronavirus.
  • The United Nations is forecasting that the pandemic will push an estimated 34.3 million people into extreme poverty, mostly in Africa.
  • Japan has lifted a state of emergency in most parts of the country. 

Here are the latest updates:

Thursday, May 14

22:30 GMT – US Senate approves bill to pressure China over Uighur rights

The US Senate approved legislation calling on President Donald Trump’s administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown on its Uighur Muslim minority, as Trump blames Beijing for worsening the coronavirus pandemic.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, calls for sanctions against those responsible for the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim groups. It specifically singles out a member of China’s powerful Politburo as responsible for “gross human rights violations” against them.

21:35 GMT – New York Stock Exchange to reopen

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) trading floor will partially reopen on May 26, over two months after it closed down to control the spread of the coronavirus, NYSE President Stacey Cunningham said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Cunninghma said floor brokers will return in smaller numbers at first and wear protective masks while they work, adding that brokers and visitors will be screened and have their temperatures taken as they enter the building.

20:55 GMT – US CDC issues guidelines on reopening schools, transit and workplaces

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines to help schools and workplaces determine whether they are ready to open for business.

The six so-called “decision trees” cover yes or no scenarios that are aimed to help assess readiness for opening workplaces, restaurants and bars, mass transit, childcare, camps and schools.

20:45 GMT – EU top diplomat wants independent probe into coronavirus origins 

The EU’s foreign policy chief has called on China to contribute significantly to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and said there should be an independent scientific investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

In a guest column in Friday’s edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Josep Borrell said China should act to help protect the world from future pandemics.

“An independent scientific investigation of the origin of this pandemic is also necessary,” he wrote.

The geopolitical battle for the COVID-19 narrative | The Listening Post

20:20 GMT – Groups ask India to rescind Gilead’s COVID-19 drug patent

Two health advocacy groups have written to the Indian government asking it to rescind patents given to Gilead Sciences for the drug remdesivir so it can be distributed more fairly to coronavirus patients around the world, particularly in poorer nations.

Remdesivir is the only drug approved to treat COVID-19 after promising early trial results prompted United States regulators to grant emergency use authorisation on May 2. To expand its access, Gilead said this week that it had signed nonexclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan, allowing them to make and sell remdesivir for 127 countries.

But health access groups say the pacts mean cheaper forms of the drug may not become available in nations seen as nonprofitable to the five drugmakers.

Read more here

Gilead India
A public address is made from a loudspeaker attached to a rickshaw for a mobile COVID-19 testing van operating in the area during a lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus in New Delhi, India, on Monday [File:T. Narayan/Bloomberg]

19:50 GMT – Cases of children with rare inflammatory syndrome spike in Italy and France

Doctors in northern Italy, one of the areas hardest hit by the new coronavirus, and in France have reported spikes in cases of a rare inflammatory syndrome in young children that appears similar to one reported in the United States, Britain and Spain, according to a report in The Lancet.

The condition, “Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome Potentially Associated with COVID-19,” shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease including fever, rashes, swollen glands and, in severe cases, heart inflammation.

Reports of cases have raised concerns that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, could pose a greater risk to children than had been understood. It has so far taken its greatest toll on the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.

US officials warn of COVID-19-related condition in children

19:35 GMT – Whistle-blower tells Congress US lacks vaccine plan

Whistle-blower Rick Bright warned on Thursday that the United States lacks a plan to produce and fairly distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. The nation could face “the darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively, he told a congressional panel.

Bright alleges he was removed from a high-level scientific post after warning the administration of US President Donald Trump to prepare for the pandemic.

Bright said, “We don’t have [a vaccine plan] yet, and it is a significant concern.” Asked if lawmakers should be worried, he responded, “absolutely”.

Read more here

Dr. Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing to discuss protecting sci
Dr. Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifies during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in Washington [Greg Nash/AFP]

19:10 GMT – Sanofi says vaccine will be available worldwide simultaneously

Sanofi will ensure that a potential vaccine against COVID-19, if approved, reaches all regions of the world at the same time, the chairman of the French drugmaker has said. 

“There will be no particular advance given to any country,” Serge Weinberg told France 2 television. “We are organised with several manufacturing units. Some of them are in the United States but even more of them are in Europe and France.”

The group’s chief executive Paul Hudson said on Thursday it was vital that any coronavirus vaccine reach all parts of the world, after angering the French government earlier by saying the United States would get priority access.

WHO says Madagascar’s herbal tonic against COVID-19 not a cure

18:45 GMT – Will working from home work? 

Companies have been forced to embrace remote working to limit the spread of COVID-19.

But that’s if the job doesn’t require you to be there in person. For those who can, working from home could become permanent.

Twitter is going to give that option to workers who wish to do so. Other firms are working out how to reopen offices while maintaining social distancing.

Al Jazeera’s Inside Story explores whether employees will ever return to the pre-pandemic office environment, or if a new era has dawned. 

Will working from home, work?

18:30 GMT – UK test-and-trace app downloaded by half of people in Isle of Wight test bed

Britain’s coronavirus test-and-trace app has been downloaded by 72,300 residents of the Isle of Wight, where it is being trialled, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said.

“Over half the residents of the Isle of Wight… have downloaded the tracking app,” he said.

Britain released the app on the island off the southern coast of England earlier this month. Shapps said the app would eventually be used to check compliance with a proposed 14-day quarantine for international travellers.

Isle of Wight
An app to trace contacts with people potentially infected with the coronavirus is being trialled on Isle of Wight [sla Binnie/Reuters]

18:00 GMT – Vatican to introduce temperature checks at St. Peter’s Basilica

People attending Masses in St. Peter’s and other papal basilicas in Rome will have their temperature checked as part of measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, the Vatican has said.

It did not say when the new measures will take effect. Public Masses will resume in churches in Italy on Monday under strict conditions outlined in a protocol signed last week by Italy’s bishops conference and the government.

St. Peter’s is on Vatican territory and the other three papal basilicas – St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, St. John’s In Lateran and St. Mary Major – have sovereign, extra-territorial status and so technically are not part of Italy.

The new rules for churches in Italy include limiting numbers, distancing and masks but they do not impose thermal scanning, meaning the papal basilicas will have even stricter rules.

epa08358478 Pope Francis (L) looks on as he celebrates Easter Sunday Mass behind closed doors at St. Peter's Basilica in The Vatican, 12 April 2020. The mass is held behind closed doors during the loc
Pope Francis looks on as he celebrates Easter Sunday Mass behind closed doors at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican [Andreas Solaro/EPA]

17:45 GMT – France death toll edges over Spain’s again

France’s cumulative coronavirus death toll has again edged over Spain’s, rising by 351, or 1.3 percent, to 27,425.

Spain earlier on Thursday reported 217 new deaths, taking its toll to 27,321. France’s toll first jumped over Spain’s on Tuesday, but dipped below it on Wednesday. The number of confirmed cases in France is now at 141,356.  

17:30 GMT – US says it condemns China-linked ‘cyber actors’ trying to steal research

The US has condemned attempts by China-linked “cyber actors and non-traditional collectors affiliated” to steal US intellectual property and data related to coronavirus research, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“The PRC’s behavior in cyberspace is an extension of its counterproductive actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“While the United States and our allies and partners are coordinating a collective, transparent response to save lives, the PRC continues to silence scientists, journalists, and citizens, and to spread disinformation, which has exacerbated the dangers of this health crisis,” he said.

Pompeo’s comments came a day after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint statement to raise awareness against what they called threats to coronavirus-related research from actors related to China. The Chinese Embassy in Washington condemned the allegations as “lies.”

Fauci warns against reopening US too soon

17:15 GMT – South Sudan records its first death

South Sudan has registered its first coronavirus death, according to a statement from the president’s office, although the identity and other details of the victim were not given.

As of Thursday the young African country had recorded a total of 231 cases of COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, and the UN said on Tuesday that infections had for the first time been detected in a heavily crowded civilian protection site in the capital Juba.

A Unicef social mobilizer uses a speaker as she carries out public health awareness to prevent the spread and detect the symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus by UNICEF at Mangateen IDP camp in Juba, S
South Sudan has reported its first death from coronavirus [Alex McBride/AFP]

17:00 GMT – Turkey’s death toll reaches 4,000: Health minister

Turkey’s coronavirus death toll has reached 4,007, after 55 more people died in the last 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said

Turkey has conducted 34,821 more tests on Thursday, taking the total amount of tests carried out so far to over 1.5 million, Koca said on Twitter.

16:45 GMT – Trump says US-China trade deal ‘doesn’t feel the same to me’

United States President Donald Trump on Thursday said he was very disappointed in China over its failure to contain the novel coronavirus, saying the worldwide pandemic cast a pall over his trade deal with Beijing.

The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China in December and was spreading silently as the US and China signed a phase one trade deal hailed by the Republican president as a major achievement.

“I’m very disappointed in China,” Trump said in an interview that was broadcast on Fox Business Network. “They should have never let this happen. So I make a great trade deal and now I say this doesn’t feel the same to me. The ink was barely dry and the plague came over. And it doesn’t feel the same to me.”

US healthcare workers face growing unemployment

16:30 GMT – France says it will take reciprocal steps if Spain quarantines its visitors

France will impose reciprocal quarantine measures on travellers coming from Spain after Spanish authorities’ decided to impose a 10-day quarantine on travellers from France, an official at the French presidential palace has said.

The official said France wanted to avoid such measures but would take reciprocal steps if countries decided to impose quarantine measures on travellers from France. It was not immediately clear when such a measure would take effect.

WHO: ‘Virus may never go away’

16:15 GMT – Italy’s daily death toll and new cases climb

Deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy have climbed by, against 195 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, while the daily tally of new cases rose to 992 from 888 on Wednesday. 

It was the largest number of deaths in one day since May 7. The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 31,368 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.

The number of confirmed cases amounts to 223,096, the fifth highest global tally behind those of the United States, Spain, Britain and Russia.

People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 76,440 from 78,457 the day before.

16:00 GMT – Olympics-IOC expects costs of up to $800 million for delayed Tokyo Games

The International Olympic Committee expects to bear costs of up to $800 million for its part in the organisation of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, now due to be staged next year, IOC President Thomas Bach has said.

In March, the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government decided to delay the Games, due to start this July, for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We anticipate we will have to bear costs of up to $800 million for our part and responsibilities in the organisation of the postponed Games Tokyo 2020,” Bach told a conference call at the end of the executive board meeting.

How is coronavirus affecting the sports industry?

15:40 GMT – Europe halts delivery of 10 million ‘poor quality’ Chinese masks

The European Commission said on Thursday it has suspended the delivery of 10 million Chinese masks to member states and the United Kingdom after two countries complained about the poor quality of the batches they received.

After the first batch of 1.5 million masks was shipped to 17 of the 27 member states and the UK, Poland’s Health Minister Lukasz Szumowski said the 600,000 items Polish authorities received did not have European certificates and failed to comply with the medical standards required for their distribution.

“We have decided to suspend future deliveries of these masks,” Commission health spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker said. “We will then see what action needs to be taken if there is indeed a quality problem with these masks.”

European Commissioner in charge of Health Stella Kyriakides wearing mask ahead of a press conference on the strategic orientations of the European Tourism and Transport Package at European Commission
European Commissioner in charge of Health Stella Kyriakides wearing mask before a news conference on the strategic orientations of the European Tourism and Transport Package at European Commission in Brussels, Belgium [Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE]

15:20 GMT – Italy launches blood tests to investigate extent of outbreak

Italy will start testing a representative sample of 150,000 people in 2,000 cities next week to understand the extent of its COVID-19 epidemic, the head of the government’s scientific committee has told parliament.

Italy has had more than 222,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 31,000 deaths since its outbreak came to light on February 21. Most of them have been in its northern regions, while the south has escaped largely unscathed.

“This testing programme will involve a significant sample of citizens and will allow us to understand the (extent of the) national spread of the virus,” said Agostino Miozzo, the head of the scientific committee.

15:00 GMT – Moscow to launch free mass tests from May 15: Mayor

Moscow will begin free mass testing of citizens for the coronavirus from May 15, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said on his website, with a target of 100,000 people a day by the end of the month.

Around 70,000 blood analysis tests will be offered every few days, in the initial roll-out, Sobyanin said.

Moscow extends lockdown until May 31 as COVID-19 infections soar

14:45 GMT – Yemen reports first cases in Al Dhalea province

Yemen’s Saudi-backed government has reported the first cases of the novel coronavirus in the southern province of Al Dhalea, among 15 new infections that took the total in areas under its control to 85 with 12 deaths.

The Aden-based government’s coronavirus committee said in a Twitter post that Al Dhalea, the ninth province to record cases, had its first three infections.

The war-ravaged country is divided between the Saudi-backed government based in the south and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls the capital Sanaa and most large urban centres. Houthi authorities have reported only two cases with one death, both in Sanaa.

14:30 GMT – Bangladesh, UN say first case detected in Rohingya refugee camp

The novel coronavirus has been detected in one of the camps in southern Bangladesh that are home to more than one million Rohingya refugees, officials have said.

An ethnic Rohingya refugee and another person had tested positive for COVID-19, a senior Bangladeshi official and a UN spokeswoman said. It was the first confirmed case in the camps, which are more densely populated than most crowded cities on earth.

“Today they have been taken to an isolation centre after they tested positive,” Mahbub Alam Talukder, the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, told Reuters news agency by phone.

The other patient was from the “host population”, a term usually used to refer to locals living outside the camps, the UN spokeswoman said.

Read more here

Rohingya camp, Bangladesh
Over 1 million Rohingya refugees live in sprawling camps in the south of Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar in several waves [Suzauddin Rubel/AFP]

14:15 GMT – Poland to extend school closures for most children

Schools in Poland will stay closed until the end of the academic year on June 26, the deputy education minister said on Thursday, with only day care for young children provided as the country tries to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In recent weeks, Poland, the largest economy among the EU’s eastern states, has sought to loosen some restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus. Restaurants and hairdressers will reopen on Monday. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday that schools would partially reopen to provide day care for children in the first three years of primary school.

“It is clear that until the end of classes…there is no decision to start the work of other classes in primary or secondary schools,” Deputy Education Minister Maciej Kopeć said in an interview with website

Should we worry about surveillance during the pandemic? | Start Here

14:00 GMT – Trump cheers Wisconsin ruling as tensions flare over lockdown

US President Donald Trump has applauded the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a coronavirus lockdown order in his latest move to encourage states to reopen, even after the top US infectious disease expert urged caution.

Residents of Wisconsin flocked to bars on Wednesday evening after the court sided with Republican lawmakers who had argued the state’s top public health official exceeded her authority by imposing restrictions on businesses and daily life.

“Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open,” Trump, a Republican, wrote in an early morning tweet, referring to Governor Tony Evers, a first-term Democrat. “The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!”

Trump’s comments reflect growing tension in the country over how quickly to reopen states closed in March due to the pandemic, which has infected nearly 1.4 million Americans and taken nearly 84,000 lives, according to a Reuters tally.

13:45 GMT – About 148,000 people in England had virus recently: Official estimate

About 148,000 people in England had COVID-19 at any point over the two weeks ending May 10, or 0.27 percent of the population, an official survey has shown.

The estimate was based on swab tests performed on 10,705 people across 5,276 households, rather than in hospitals or care homes, the Office for National Statistics said.

13:35 GMT – Drugmaker Sanofi to meet French presidential officials next week: Elysee

Sanofi officials will attend a high-level meeting at the Elysee palace next week after comments by the French drugmaker that vaccines produced in the US could go to US patients first upset President Emmanuel Macron, an Elysee official has said.

“These comments have upset all those who work on it, starting with the president,” a French Presidency official said.

The same official said he was not aware of any direct phone call to Sanofi chief executive Paul Hudson, adding: “Next week there will be a meeting at the Elysee to try to go beyond that and work together.”

Where are we with a coronavirus vaccine? | Start Here

13:25 GMT – Antibody test approval is an ‘important breakthrough’: UK PM spokesman

Britain’s approval of a COVID-19 antibody test is an “important breakthrough” and might lead to Britons being able to use health certificates if antibodies are present, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The antibody tests – also known as serology tests – show who has been infected, although it is not yet clear whether the presence of antibodies to the new coronavirus confers permanent immunity.

“We’ve talked about in the future the potential for some kind of health certificate related to whether or not you have antibodies but we need a better understanding of the immune system response to the virus and the length and level of immunity following infection to better understand the potential of the test,” the spokesman told reporters.

antibody testing
A medical practitioner takes a blood sample to detect the coronavirus antibodies from a patient in Richmond, Texas [Adrees Latif/Reuters]

13:10 GMT – UK COVID-19 death toll rises by 428 to 33,614

The COVID-19 death toll in the UK has risen by 428 to 33,614, health officials have said.

An update from the officials also showed that more than 126,000 tests were carried out on May 13.

Hello, this is Joseph Stepansky in Doha, taking over from my colleague Saba Aziz.

12:40 GMT – US: 36 million have filed for jobless aid since virus hit

Nearly three million laid-off workers in the US applied for unemployment benefits last week as the viral outbreak led more companies to slash jobs even though most states have begun to let some businesses reopen under certain restrictions.

Roughly 36 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the two months since the coronavirus first forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces, the Labor Department said. 

Read more here

Trump: Fauci remarks on risks to reopening economy unacceptable

12:05 GMT – UN regrets Burundi expulsion of WHO team

UN investigators said they deeply regretted Burundi’s expulsion of four World Health Organization offiicials supporting the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, tasked to investigate alleged violations and abuses in the country, said in a statement that it “deeply regretted the recent decision by the government to declare persona non grata the country representative of WHO and three of its experts”.

11:40 GMT – Iran warns of new coronavirus cluster 

Iran warned of a possible coronavirus cluster hitting another province as it announced 71 new deaths and more than 1,800 infections nationwide.

“We are in situation similar to previous days (in most provinces) save for Khuzestan, which is still in a critical condition, and it seems that North Khorasan may be critical as well,” said health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour.

“If this trend continues, North Khorasan will require more serious measures, too,” he added in televised remarks.

Iran has deemed more than 150 counties across the country as low-risk and allowed them to reopen mosques [Atta Kenare/AFP]

11:00 GMT – France’s Sanofi under fire over US access to vaccine 

France has cried foul after its homegrown pharmaceutical giant Sanofi said it would reserve first shipments of any COVID-19 vaccine for the United States, slamming the move as “unacceptable”.

The French drug maker’s chief executive, Paul Hudson, sparked the controversy after announcing that US patients would get first choice because their government was helping to fund the vaccine search.

The company later backtracked and said in a statement it would make its COVID-19 vaccine, when ready, available in all countries. French Health Minister Olivier Veran said he was “reassured” by a conversation with the head of Sanofi.

10:30 GMT – Dubai mall to open new drive-in cinema 

Movie-goers in Dubai frustrated by the closure of cinemas during the coronavirus pandemic will soon be able to watch films from the comfort of their own car at a new drive-in cinema created on the roof of one of the world’s largest shopping malls.

With social distancing mandatory in the United Arab Emirates to help curb the spread of the virus, VOX Cinemas says viewers will be limited to two per car at the open-air venue, which opens at the Mall of Emirates on Sunday and can accommodate up to 75 cars at a time.

Drive-in cinema amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dubai
People sit in their cars watching a movie in a drive-in cinema at a pre-opening event at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai [Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters]

10:00 GMT – World leaders demand free coronavirus vaccine for all

World leaders past and present have insisted that any eventual COVID-19 vaccines and treatments should be made available to everyone, free of charge.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan were among more than 140 signatories of an open letter to the World Health Assembly saying any vaccine should not be patented while the science should be shared between nations.

“Governments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee which ensures that, when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge,” the letter said.

Read more here

09:45 GMT – ‘100, 200 football clubs could go bankrupt’ due to coronavirus

Football faces losing many clubs to bankruptcy because of the coronavirus pandemic, a club executive has said. 

Lokomotiva Zagreb director Dennis Gudasic warned of a “drastic situation whereby we have maybe 100 or 200 clubs go bankrupt in September or October” if challenges facing smaller clubs are not understood.

Read more here.

How will COVID-19 impact Qatar’s 2022 World Cup? | #AJNewNormal

09:30 GMT – Coronavirus vaccine could be ready in a year: EU agency

A vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready in a year’s time under an “optimistic” scenario, based on data from trials that are under way, the European Medicines Agency said. 

“We can see the possibility if everything goes as planned that some of them (vaccines) could be ready for approval in a year from now,” Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy, told a video news conference.

Cavaleri said he was, however, “a bit sceptical” about reports that a vaccine could be ready as soon as September.

Where are we with a coronavirus vaccine? | Start Here

09:20 GMT – Japan lifts state of emergency in most regions

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has lifted a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus for the majority of the country but kept it in place for the capital, Tokyo, and Osaka.

“Today we decided to lift the state of emergency in 39 (out of 47) prefectures,” Abe said in a nationally televised news conference.

Read more here

09:11 GMT – Spain’s daily death toll rises above 200

Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll rose above 200 for the first time since May 8, the health ministry reported.

The overall death toll from the disease rose to 27,321 from 27,104 as 217 people reportedly died overnight, the ministry said.

08:30 GMT – China dismisses US hacking claims 

China has dismissed US accusations about Chinese hackers breaking into COVID-19 research, calling it slander from the US.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that any action online to sabotage efforts against the disease should be condemned.

08:00 GMT – WHO: Pandemic is seriously affecting mental health

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said substantial investment is needed to avert a mental health crisis, raising concern over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people’s psychological well-being.

“Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

“Mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added, reiterating a similar assertion by UN chief Antonio Guterres. 

07:40 GMT – Finland reopens schools despite virus warnings

Schools have reopened in Finland after eight weeks of lockdown despite warnings from the teacher’s union it may not be totally safe for its staff or the children.

The reopenings see pupils back in school for just over two weeks before the summer holidays begin in early June, with strict physical distancing rules in place.

Pupils maintain physical distance before entering Eestinkallio primary school as it re-opens, in Espoo, Finland [AFP]

Break times will be staggered to avoid large numbers of children in the playground at once, and unused spaces will be turned into classrooms to allow pupils to spread out, Education Minister Li Andersson said when announcing the decision on April 29.

07:35 GMT – Russia’s coronavirus cases pass 250,000

Russia reported 9,974 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, its lowest daily rise since May 2, bringing its nationwide tally to 252,245.

Russia’s coronavirus response centre said 93 people died overnight, bringing the official death toll to 2,305.

07:00 GMT – PGA tour to return with mandatory testing

Testing for the novel coronavirus and daily temperature checks will be a mandatory feature of the return of professional golf in the US next month, officials said.

In a 37-page presentation, the PGA Tour gave detailed insights into the stringent hygiene standards and safety precautions needed to be able to resume the tour on June 11 with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. 

06:50 GMT – Pandemic will cost global insurance sector $203bn: Lloyd’s

The deadly coronavirus outbreak will cost the global insurance industry about $203bn, Lloyd’s of London insurance market has forecasted.

“The estimated 2020 underwriting losses covered by the industry as a result of COVID-19 are approximately $107bn, on par with some of the biggest major claims years for the industry, such as when catastrophic windstorms have struck” in 2005 and 2017, it said in a statement.

The industry will also experience an estimated $96bn fall in investment portfolios, bringing the total projected loss to $203bn, it added.

06:30 GMT – Burundi orders top WHO official to leave country

Burundi has ordered the expulsion of the country’s top WHO representative and three other experts coordinating the coronavirus response, the foreign ministry said.

In a letter dated May 12 and addressed to the WHO’s Africa headquarters, the foreign ministry said the four officials “are declared persona non grata and as such, must leave the territory of Burundi” by Friday.

The foreign ministry did not state a reason for this decision. 

WHO: ‘Virus may never go away’

06:15 GMT – Thailand reports one new case, no deaths

Thailand reported one new coronavirus case and no new deaths, bringing the total to 3,018 cases and 56 deaths since the outbreak started in the country in January.

The new patient is a 39-year-old man from the northern province of Chiang Mai, who recently returned from working on the resort island of Phuket, an area with a high infection rate, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

Hello, this is Saba Aziz in Doha, taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur.

05:17 GMT – Philippines braces for Typhoon Vongfong amid coronavirus emergency

A strong typhoon is roaring towards the Philippines as authorities work to evacuate tens of thousands of people while avoiding overcrowding in emergency shelters that could spread the coronavirus.

Typhoon Vongfong – the first to hit the country this year – is expected to slam the eastern islands later on Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 150 km/h (93 mph) and gusts of up to 185 km/h (115 mph).

Governors say physical distancing will be nearly impossible for residents staying in emergency shelters. Some shelters are now serving as quarantine facilities and may have to be reverted to storm shelters.

Read more here

Workers fold up a billboard to prepare for Typhoon Vongfong in Manila on Thursday [Aaron Favila/AP]

04:48 GMT – UN says 34.3 million people to fall into extreme poverty

The UN is forecasting that the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the world economy by 3.2 percent this year, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s, pushing an estimated 34.3 million people into extreme poverty mostly in Africa.

The UN’s mid-year report said COVID-19 is expected to slash global economic output by nearly $8.5 trillion over the next two years, wiping out nearly all gains of the past four years.

In January, the UN forecast modest growth of 2.5 percent in 2020.

04:18 GMT – UN’s Guterres: Address mental health needs amid pandemic

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged governments, civil society and health authorities to urgently address mental health needs arising from the pandemic, warning that psychological suffering is increasing.

In a video address late on Wednesday, Guterres pointed to “grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics, and uncertainty and fear for the future.”

“After decades of neglect and under-investment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress.”

04:02 GMT – Australia reports surge in coronavirus-fuelled unemployment

Australia posted its biggest ever monthly rise in unemployment on Thursday because of coronavirus lockdown measures, even as the country begins to gradually ease physical distancing rules.

Thursday’s data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed employment in April dropped by 594,300, the largest fall on record, fuelling the 6.2 percent unemployment.

03:49 GMT – Japan to end state of emergency for most regions; Tokyo to stay on alert

Japan was expected to lift a state of emergency across a large part of the country on Thursday, according to Reuters news agency, but the capital Tokyo will remain under restrictions until there is convincing evidence the coronavirus had been contained.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to hold a news conference later on Thursday, and is expected to announce the lifting of the state of emergency for 39 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, not including Tokyo.

The world’s third-largest economy declared a nationwide state of emergency a month ago, urging citizens to reduce person-to-person contact by 80 percent in an effort to slow the pace of new infections and ease the strain on medical services. The government had said it would reassess the situation in mid-May.

Japan has reported nearly 16,000 coronavirus infections and over 650 deaths [Koji Sasahara/AP] 

03:12 GMT – South Korea raises alarms over infections at nightspots

Infections in Seoul coming from nightspots in the neighbourhood of Itaewon reached 72 on Thursday, according to the Yonhap news agency, raising fears over what South Korean health authorities described as “a truly cruel virus” further spreading in the capital.

The cases traced to Itaewon form the second-largest cluster of infections in Seoul, following 98 cases linked to a call centre in the southwestern area of Sindorim.

Daily new infections in the country came in at 29, including 22 in the Seoul area, bringing the country’s total infections to 10,991 on Thursday, Yonhap quoted health officials as saying. The death toll is at 260.

02:48 GMT – US: Wisconsin court tosses out governor’s stay-home order

The supreme court of the US state of Wisconsin has struck down Governor Tony Evers’ coronavirus stay-at-home order, ruling that his administration overstepped its authority when it extended it for another month without consulting legislators.

The 4-3 ruling essentially reopens the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please, and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen, including bars and restaurants.

The decision let stand language that had closed schools, however, and local governments can still impose their own health restrictions.

02:06 GMT – Japanese pharma company says coronavirus treatment trial to start in July

The Japanese company, Takeda Pharmaceutical, could start a clinical trial as early as July for a potential treatment of COVID-19 that is based on antibodies from recovered patients’ blood, company executives said.

The clinical trial would include hundreds of patients and take several months to complete. If successful, Japan’s Takeda could file for approval by US authorities this year, said Julie Kim, president of the plasma-derived therapies unit of Takeda.

“When the product will be available beyond the clinical study is still a bit unclear,” Kim said on an investor call. “We do expect that, before the end of the year, we should see some information in terms of broader use.”

01:18 GMT – Whistle-blower: US could face ‘darkest winter’ if virus rebounds

America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says a government whistle-blower who alleges he was removed from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Immunologist Dr Rick Bright made his sobering prediction in a testimony prepared for his appearance on Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Aspects of his complaint about the administration’s early handling of the crisis are expected to be backed up by testimony from an executive of a company that manufactures respirator masks.

“If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Bright said in his prepared testimony posted on the House committee website.

01:02 GMT – Mexico’s total deaths from coronavirus rise to 4,220

Mexico’s health ministry confirmed 1,862 new cases of coronavirus infections on Wednesday, along with 294 additional deaths, slightly lower than the country’s record number of daily fatalities reported the day before, Reuters news agency reported.

The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 40,186 and 4,220 deaths in total, according to the official tally.

Mexico - coronavirus
People bundled up against the cold after spending the night waiting for news of relatives being treated for suspected COVID-19, outside the Mexico General Hospital, in Mexico City [Rebecca Blackwell/AP]

00:48 GMT – Canada, US likely to extend travel restrictions until June 21

Canada and the US appear likely to extend a ban on non-essential travel until June 21 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Canadian government source and a top US official told Reuters news agency.

The two neighbouring countries had agreed on April 18 to extend border restrictions until May 21 as cases of the disease continued to rise in both nations. Canada is now pressing for the measures to remain for another month. 

00:35 GMT – China reports 3 new cases from mainland, no new imported infections

China’s National Health Commission reported on Thursday at least three new cases of the coronavirus cases in the country as of the end of Wednesday – down from seven cases the previous day.

The health agency also said none of the cases was imported.

Of the 82,929 total cases officially reported in China, 78,195 have recovered and 101 remain active, while 4,633 have died.

China - Beijing
China reported no new imported cases as of the end of Wednesday [Ng Han Guan/AP]

00:01 GMT – Spokesman for Mexican foreign minister has coronavirus

The chief spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has tested positive for the coronavirus, and an official in the president’s office has died of the disease, bringing the pandemic closer to the inner circle of government.

The spokesman, Roberto Velasco Alvarez, is a close aide to Ebrard.

Mexico has recorded more than 38,000 infections and close to 4,000 deaths due to the virus.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Click here to read updates from yesterday, May 13.

France says US priority on Sanofi vaccine unacceptable

Giving some countries such as the United States priority access to any coronavirus vaccine developed by Sanofi would be unacceptable, France’s junior economy minister said on Thursday, after the firm suggested Americans could get it first.

The French drugmaker’s chief executive, Paul Hudson, said on Wednesday that vaccine doses produced in the United States could go to US patients first, given the country had supported the research financially.

“It would of course be unacceptable for us if there were to be a privileged access for this or that country under pretext of a pecuniary motive, especially in the current context,” Agnes Pannier-Runacher, France’s junior economy minister, told Sud Radio. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies